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Opinion of a German politician

By Rainer Kaufmann
Friday, April 12

There are politicians in European capitals who give their opinions on the political situation in Georgia without ever having been in the Caucasus. But there are also people in the political scene that regularly visit the region. Viola von Cramon, a member of the German Parliament from the Green Party belongs to the latter category. Von Cramon is visiting Georgia for the fifth time now in her role as spokeswoman for EU foreign relations. For over a week, she completed an extensive program concerned with all levels of policy and traveled through the whole country, including Abkhazia. Her previous visit was in September, shortly before the parliamentary elections, when she gave critical judgments on the domestic political situation in interviews and press releases. Von Cramon sat down with us to give her informed impressions of this period of Georgian political cohabitation.

What has changed for you in Georgia in recent months?

Von Cramon: "We have seen how democracy can function as the people voted out a government. To understand this, one must first of all look at the ghost towns of Lazika or Anaklia. In Anaklia the residents do not even have running water, while on the coast a number of hotels have been built in front of their houses. The hotels are usually empty. Lazika already has a government building but the new government has already halted further building in the town. You must have seen the new Parliament building in Kutaisi with all its structural defects. It's not easy to understand how a government that has to deal responsibly with taxpayers' money, indulges in a useless, almost insane building policy, while the people bleed."

What is your impression of the new government, which was met in Brussels with certain criticism?

Von Cramon: "The new government is very willing and extremely open-minded to take all necessary steps and implement reforms. I see a great openness and transparency in all ministries that has never been there before. Of course, we must remember that not all members of the government are political professionals. But there are a number of important people who have sufficient political experience. There's also been significant progress: for example, the new constitution. Or the judicial reform, which is currently being discussed in Parliament. In the reform package almost all the proposals made by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe were included. This has never happend in a post-Soviet state till today. And also all the opposition's reservations concerning the reforms have been answered and resolved. In both constitutional and judicial reform, members of the Georgian Parliament have shown that they are capable of cohabitation. "

This is not true for all political forces in the country.

Von Cramon: "It is bitter looking from the outside when the President complains that cohabitation has two sides. He himself practiced exactly the opposite policy. He repeats time and again that he is not trying to hurt the current government, but more and more he undermines the reputation of his own country. This is also evident in the matter of appointing new ambassadors, including to Germany. The current Georgian government has made an excellent suggestion according to my sources. There is no reason not to nominate the ambassadors. The President makes these political decisions consciously, just to demonstrate his own power. He is unwilling to really move the country forward. He would rather not appoint new and strong ambassadors who are essential to the national interest. "

How do you see the relationship between government and opposition in the parliamentary sphere?

Von Cramon: "It is good for the country that the parliamentary majority also knows their own weaknesses and actually demands a strong opposition. For a democratic balance of interests a powerful opposition is essential. But this includes just two sides. "

What about the Association Agreement with the EU?

Von Cramon: "The new government has a clear agenda: to achieve polticial association with the European Union as soon as possible. And I've repeatedly heard the request to send consultants who can help Georgia. It was the old government which continually refused this request. The EU is sending some ministerial consultants to assist the Georgian government in the implementation of the necessary reforms."

What contribution can Germany provide?

Von Cramon: "Germany can contribute much to democratic development Georgia. We can give them advice concerning the judiciary, for example. I also know from Brussels that they would welcome an increased German contribution to the Georgian reform process. "

What do you expect from cohabitation, which began in October 2012 and will continue until the President's term expires this autumn?"

Von Cramon: "Of course we must think about the time after October. But the people have elected this government, because they expect changes and reforms. And now they are still waiting. After the first steps in the judiciary reforms will be made in the agricultural sector. We can help from Germany, as we could motivate German investors in Georgian agriculture. Or by helping to create farmers' associations. Or by bringing in the experience of our Raiffeisen cooperatives with which small farm based Georgian agriculture can be developed. Or by providing professional training to show that there exist other educational opportunities."

You have been also in Abkhazia and have observed the work of the EUMM.Did you see in any starting points in resolving the conflict?

Von Cramon: "It's a difficult situation. In Sukhumi their isn't much willingness to cooperate with Georgia. But we should remain there to make offers. The new Georgian ministers on these issues are extremely creative and are breaking new ground. We should support them. It is a pity that the move to give the Reintegration Ministry a more neutral name has been blocked by the President. Again, this is destructive behavior. "